By Nicolas McCarthy, CAOT
Ever feel stressed thinking about the day or the week ahead? Do you ever feel overwhelmed? You’re not alone! In fact, the percentage of Canadians feeling stressed has doubled in the past 10 years.
Now…stop and ask yourself this simple question: Have you done something for yourself lately? If you answered yes, maybe it’s time
to turn the page. If you answered no, we need to talk.
Maintaining a “life balance” can mean so many things to so many people, and may well be different for each of us. Experts suggest that what’s “right” for us depends on our energy levels, our interests, career demands, family activities and the support that’s available. Most think of work/life balance, but it goes further than that. To stay healthy, we need to achieve “lifestyle balance.”
Try these simple strategies to check in on how you are doing:
Evaluate how you spend your time: Everyone assumes roles and responsibilities. Try to figure out how much time you spend on work, chores, parenting, self-care and leisure activities. Grab a calendar and keep track for a week of everything you do. By the end of the week, you will have a complete picture of what you do and how long it takes you to do it. You can then review and decide on necessary adjustments you’d like to make.
Plan your days wisely: The more hectic your life, the more important it is to plan time carefully. Use one night a week to think about the week ahead. Draft a list of things you need to get done, and identify the priority items with a deadline. Decide what’s important to accomplish and how these tasks fit in with your personal goals. Physically cross off the items that you finish as you go through the week, and focus on what you get done rather than what you didn’t do. It’s the small victories in life that help ease the stress and allow us to regain control.
Do what’s meaningful for you: For the sake of your mental health and overall well-being, make sure you’re trying to do what’s meaningful for you. People often forget to do things that make them feel good, satisfied and worthwhile. Consider your physical, social, spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs, and ensure that some of your weekly activities are fulfilling one or more of those needs. Each morning, highlight one activity that you must do for your own sake. The other, less important activities can be postponed or, dare we say, forgotten about or de-listed.
Set your goals: Be realistic in setting your goals. There’s no harm in setting large, lofty, seemingly impossible goals, but take a look
at the baby steps that will get you there. Make them into a measurable journey. Take the steps necessary to achieve them bit by bit, smaller goal by smaller goal. Eventually you’ll be able to look back at your starting point and see how far you’ve come.
Ask for, and give yourself, more time for you.
When the going gets tough, hire help, delegate tasks and lean on your support system of colleagues, friends, partner and family. And
pay it forward by being ready to lend a hand whenever you can. We all want to be self-sufficient and independent, but we all need a lift at times.
Protect your weekends:
Put the fun back into those days. Most of us can spend as many as 12 hours each weekend doing household chores and errands. If you can, spread those activities out over the week. Grocery shopping is faster and less stressful during Tuesday and Wednesday’s non-peak hours.
Raking the leaves or doing laundry on the weekdays can also leave your weekend free for other activities.
Take a look at your values
What is really important in your life? Build in the time for what is most valuable to you, rather than what you feel you should do. Most of all, take time out for yourself to refresh and recharge your batteries.
Life. It’s really all about balance.
Nicolas McCarthy is Communication Officer for the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists.